The whole of last week, I have been happily housebound as the husband is away. This meant that I did not have to go to my sundry treasure troves of organic goodies spread across town. The last week was also the one that changed Indian politics forever and for the better we hope. Many who have voted our new Prime Minster in have done so regardless of the candidate of their constituency or the baggage the man comes with. They all voted for change with a capital C and were willing to pass over the past were the man to deliver the dreams he sold. For some it is the end of corruption, for others it is regaining pride as a nation; for some it is access to new jobs, for others it may be revival of the economic slump; for some it is prices coming down and for others simply getting 2 square meals. The expectations are high and the time is short as the people of India are angry, hurt and impatient. They kept their part of the deal - gave an absolute majority - now it is for the new incumbent to conjure his, and I use the word conjure because he does need to deliver miracles.
There are still some who fear this man and feel that his reign may augur for all of us and more so for the minorities. An open letter
to the PM highlights these fears should you be interested in reading it. But I guess the fear everyone talks of comes from the bogey of secularism we have been fed ad nauseum and that has been kept alive by politicians as polarisation of any sort, be it caste or religion, suits their agendas and vote bank politics. However, when we look at the results, it seems that the electorate has obliterated this fault lines and voted across the Board. Maybe the game has been exposed or maybe every one realises that these bugbears belong to times gone by. The electorate voted as a Nation and we need respect that. I strongly feel we should give the new incumbents a chance before crying wolf.
So as I was saying, as the husband is on his way back, I need to replenish the larder and hence set out on my fixed beat to get all needed for the man's regimen. The first stop was at a general store whose young owner has become a good friend and who pre election was not in favour of the party now in power, but as any young intelligent Indian he too was willing to give a chance to the new Government. We got on talking about many things and also about FDI in retail, something that according to those who oppose the policy would hurt shopkeepers like him. What he said warmed the cockles of my heart and made me proud to be an Indian. He simply said: people should have confidence in the Indian tradesman
! He, who has been in the business for years said he did not fear FDI in retail as he knew that his customers would always come to him and that is a fact. Take me. I would not travel miles to go to a Carrefour or a Tesco to buy my groceries. I hate hypermarkets and have had my fill when I was abroad and felt like someone out of Chaplin's Modern Times with my shopping cart walking corridors filled with goods and almost compelled to buy more than needed or even what is not needed because of the promos and other advertising gimmicks. During my 4 years in Paris I longed for the corner grocery shop and the other regular shops I went to in India.
Even if had a car and drove, nothing would make me battle the Delhi traffic and drive miles to buy what I can get just by making a call and old Mr M charges a few extra rupees, it would still be less than the fuel. But I move in a three-wheeler and these mercifully are not allowed outside the Delhi borders where these new shopping giants will be located. I guess there are many like me we have succumbed to the charm of the proverbial Indian businessman and is not ready to leave what s/he is comfortable with for impersonal and unknown options.
I hope the new powers that will rule us for the next five years will realise the ingenuity and spirit of enterprise of Indians per se and over and above the new jobs they create through economic growth, they will also clear the way for the small people who have a real feel of the pulse of the market and set up shops where needed: be it the street tailor, cobbler or the food cart or even the young man who sets up a 2 day shop in front of an examination centre selling Guide books. They need to be freed from the stranglehold of red tapism and the numerous pockets they have to help fill. In a land has populated as ours we need to open the ways for such initiatives. And those who say, like the last incumbents, that street shops make the city ugly, I would like to state that this is what makes India, Incredible India!
Of course I hope the new Government will look at primary education and the danger of being seduced by Public Private Partnership in education. The children of India will not forgive you that.
A lot hope and a lot of dreams ride on our new PM. May he fulfil them and not lose his way in doing so.
I must admit I felt a little sheepish not going the Congress way this time as this was the party of my ancestors and most of all my mother. But knowing Kamala, even she would not have voted their way as her heart more than anyone else always beat for India. One was vindicated when one came to know about the farce
that was enacted in the name of retrospection yesterday. The reigns remain in the same hands. When will they learn.
I will end by quoting what a friend and a retired senior civil servant in the UK wrote to me: I've just read your really interesting piece about your new PM. I couldn't work out what I thought of him in the run up to the Election - humble origins but said to be right wing and divisive etc - so it was good to see him through your eyes. He offers the kind of hope for a new and better life ahead that I remember so many of us in Britain felt in May 1997 when Tony Blair was elected ... but while some good things were achieved by his Government (most of which have now been dismantled by our current lot), he also led us into war and let his Chancellor lead us into economic recession .... I wish you and India and Modi better, much better!
We all do!